Forty-Deuce | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

FORTY-DEUCE, Trap Door Theatre. Alan Bowne's 1981 study of male prostitutes in the sex and drug underworld of Times Square is gripping, jaggedly juxtaposing taut drama and dark comedy. It would seem the perfect project for director Michael S. Pieper, given his nuanced, intense stagings of such risky X-rated all-male ensemble pieces as Sugar Down, Billie Hoak. But in this hyperactive production the actors' bellowing obscures the rhythms and images of Bowne's raw but carefully crafted poetry, distilled from the language of the streets. And the exaggerated violence and sexual posturing undermine the script's authenticity (Bowne was a bisexual ex-junkie who died of AIDS in 1989). Pieper's unconvincing, oddly skewed set (a 42nd Street hotel room) and Richard Norwood's inexplicably bright lighting even when the action supposedly takes place in semidarkness further diminish the play's gritty realism.

Danny Belrose and Michael McEvoy are commanding as the hustlers who scheme to make a middle-aged businessman think he's killed a 12-year-old runaway (the kid actually overdosed). And Michael Quinn, who as the corpse spends the entire play sprawled naked on a bed, displays impressive breath control. But the other actors seem stagy and amateurish, especially Troy Lindsey as the conned client. The character should convey the icy arrogance of a slick corporate consultant on a slumming spree, but Lindsey's ill-fitting clothes, flouncy mannerisms, and ludicrous silver wig would get him laughed out of every boardroom on Sixth Avenue. --Albert Williams

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